The ‘Glass Roses’ short story by Alden Nowlan

Aprova Kala famously said, “Your vision might not be my one.” This quote has a lot of significance in Alden Nowlan’s short story “Glass Roses.” The story’s society has some standards for how masculinity can be portrayed, and they set it as the benchmark for all boys to meet as they grow up. Stephen’s father is diligent to portray stereotypical norms to his son, and he also believes that he should avoid interacting with foreigners who do not uphold similar expectations. The several obstacles that Stephen faces as he grows reveal the underlying issue of gaps in individuals’ self-perception and that of others. The paper will show different ideas that Nowlan uses to prove the interplay between self-perception and the standpoint of others regarding an individual.

Stephen is uncertain of the extent to which he should live up to his father’s perception and expectations. Stephen’s father is very stereotypic, and he believes that the only way men should portray their strength through physical means. Stephen’s father spends most of his time at the pulp-mill portraying his physical strength. On the other hand, Stephen does not value manual work yet he still wants to be accepted by other men especially his father. In fact, when Stephen is working at the pulp saw, he notices that the strength of the other men comes in easily and he tries to keep up with them by working until he aches from exhaustion. Stephen feels the need to prove himself as a man to his father. His father was warning on the need to show strength said: “there ain’t no room for kids in the pulp woods (Nowlan 83).” Although Stephen knew that he did not adore this kind of work, he still felt the urge to please his father so as not to appear as a kid.

Stephen seems not to understand his real perception of being a real man. Although Stephen feels that he does not value physical strength like his father and that men are also allowed to show emotions, he is timid to portray that in his community. Stephen feels that he will be affected by the perception of his community men regarding his different opinion of himself. He is not ready for any persecution that may come up as a result of a different viewpoint on his way of proving masculinity. Stephen only feels inspired when he interacts with Leka, the foreigner who helps him understand that people should live lives according to their perceptions and not those of others. As Leka was talking to Stephen, he challenges him by saying “you try too hard kid, you act as if the saw were the most important thing in the world (Nowlan 86).” The inspiration that Stephen draws from Leka leads him to a confrontation with his father in the shed. During this conservation, Stephen then realizes that only his perception should control his actions and become a reality. Stephen goes ahead to live to his opinion when he wakes Leka up from his nightmare of the Second World War (Nowlan 82). It is clear to Stephen that he has now understood his perception of being a real man and he is ready to prove it to his father and his community as well.

The title ‘Glass Roses’ also brings out the aspect of the interplay between the perception of the public and that of an individual regarding their personality. The title has been used symbolically to try and show the struggle that Stephen goes through as he is trying to live up to his father’s expectation. Stephen can be likened to a rose which is attractive to people, the same way he interacted with Leka, a foreigner who was from a different culture. Stephen is also emotional and doesn’t adore physical strength. His character is easily likened to a rose. On the other hand, his father is a strong man who cannot show any emotion other than anger. He can be likened to glass which is tough. However, just like it is difficult for glass roses to cope with challenges, it was also next to impossible for Stephen to live up to his father’s expectations. Leka says to Stephen “there is not much room in the world for glass roses (Nowlan 83).” His perception of life could not integrate into his father’s, and he had to make up his mind to remain faithful to himself.

The short story has succeeded at showing some of the challenges that individuals go through as they deal with the problem of differences between self-perception and how other people see them through Stephen’s character. Nowlan has used a range of ideas to prove the interplay between self-perception and that of others and how it influences the kind of lives that individuals live. Stephen is willing to overwork himself at the pulp-mill so that he lives up to his father’s perception of the strength of a man. He only realizes the need to be true to himself and shape his reality when he interacts with Leka who helps him understand that the world doesn’t favor most of the glass roses. Stephen then recognizes the need to live up to his perception and even engages his father in a quarrel as he tries to defend his standpoint. Clearly, a difference in personal and public opinions regarding an individual can bring problems in their lives.

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Works Cited

Nowlan, Alden. “The Glass Roses.” Stories from Atlantic Canada. 1968. 82-92.

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